Max **

Even dog lovers won't enjoy this tripe. Makes you feel bad for the dogs.

Is it worth $10? No

There’s a scene in the beginning of “Max” that’s played for heartfelt sentiment, but in reality is incredibly rude and inconsiderate. In a sense it’s a microcosm of the entire movie, which strives for emotional impact but overall is so dull that it’s inconsiderate of the viewer’s time and attention.

The scene is set inside a Texas church. It’s the memorial service for Kyle Wincott (Robbie Amell), the proud son of Ray (Thomas Haden Church) and Pamela (Lauren Graham), and young teen Justin’s (Josh Wiggins) older brother. Kyle was a dog-handler U.S. Marine who was killed in action in Afghanistan. His dog – “Best Friend. Hero. Marine.” as the tagline says – was Max, a loyal and handsome Belgian Malinois. As the choir sings “Nearer My God To Thee” and Pamela cries, Marine handler Sgt. Reyes (Jay Hernandez) interrupts the proceeding to drag yelping Max into the church (are dogs allowed in churches?) so he can wail at his owner’s coffin. It’s sad, and so unfathomably discourteous I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I know, “the dog had a right to be at his handler’s memorial service.” I actually agree. The dog also had a right to be there on time so he wouldn’t disrupt literally everything that’s happening in the middle of the ceremony.

Afterward the film wastes five minutes pretending the Wincotts aren’t going to adopt Max, and then they bring him home to find he only likes Justin. Up to the adoption co-writer and director Boaz Yakin’s (“Remember the Titans”) film is okay. Then…nothing happens. The story stands still, seemingly refusing to move forward and be interesting. Justin doesn’t want the dog, bonds with the dog, flirts with his friend Chuy’s (Dejon LaQuake) cousin Carmen (Mia Xitlali), rip/burns video games and illegally sells them for profit. He’s a normal teenager, only now he has a dog. So what? Either tell an interesting story or have the good graces to end – don’t waste our time with nothing. Given that two women in front of me didn’t shut up all movie, clearly they urgently needed to get to their gossipy conversation in which they interrupt one another with the phrase “oh my gawd!” six hundred times. 

When the plot does finally swing into motion, it does so in predictable and tedious ways. Chuy’s criminal cousin Emilio (Joseph Julian Soria) is working with Kyle’s former best friend and fellow Marine Tyler (Luke Kleintank) to unload stolen munitions. Max’s life is threatened throughout. Tyler tells Ray that Max is the reason Kyle is dead. Ray returns home and wants to kill Max. Justin stops him. “If he [Max] screws up one time – just one time – he’s going to get put down,” Ray says. Yeah right.

People tend to avoid animal movies because they either don’t want to see anything bad happen to animals or they’re worried it’s going to be too schmaltzy for its own good. To its credit “Max” isn’t either of these, as you never get emotionally invested enough to care and bad things only happen to animals that threaten Max. Still, this is Hallmark-movie quality that’s asking for your money to see it on the big screen, and it’s not worth the price of admission.

Did you know?
A total of six Belgian Malinois played Max: Carlos did the majority of the work, Pax and Jagger subbed in as needed, Dude did the stunt work, Chaos handled the running and Pilot was chosen for her youthful exuberance. So yes, a dog named Carlos played the lead character in this Texas-based story about a white Christian family. 

'Max' opens 6/26. Purchase your tickets now on Fandango to reserve a seat. Don't get sold out!

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